1879: Stretford Public Hall opens!
The hall was built by the philanthropists John and Enriquetta Rylands, and was officially opened on 13th September 1879. John Rylands was Manchester’s first multi-millionaire, who made his money from textile mills. The Hall was designed by architect William Arthur Lofthouse, in a mixed gothic revival style. It was intended to be a public hall, with lecture rooms and the town’s first free lending library.
Following John Ryland’s death in 1888, his widow Enriqueta rented the building to the local authority. The hall became known as Stretford Town Hall. In 1910, the Hall was bought by Stretford Council for a nominal fee of £5,000.
Stretford Public Hall was one of many liberal ‘gifts’ to the people of Stretford from the Rylands, who lived in Longford Hall, in Stretford’s Longford Park.
1949: the hall re-opens as Stretford Civic Theatre
In 1940, the new Stretford Library was opened on King Street and Stretford Public Hall’s library was no longer needed, leading to the hall’s closure.
The building re-opened in March 1949 as the Stretford Civic Theatre, with a well-equipped stage for the use of local groups. Many Mancunians have fond memories of the Civic Theatre, which served as a community centre and a popular live music venue.
In December 1977, the theatre secured its place in local music history when it hosted the Rock against Racism Christmas Party, featuring John Cooper Clarke, The Worst and The Fall.
The Hall slowly fell into disrepair, despite being designated a Grade II-listed building in 1987. Eventually, Trafford Council refurbished and converted the hall to serve as council offices in the mid-1990s. It was re-opened in 1997, once again named Stretford Public Hall.